Britain's dark romantic comedy "Three and Out" begins promisingly enough, with a credits sequence set spiritedly to Elvis Costello's stellar single "Accidents Will Happen."

How quickly fortunes change.

As soon as it establishes its plot "? the last-minute twist for which you can guess upon setup "? revolves around sad-sack train operator Paul (Mackenzie Crook, Ragetti from all those insufferably overstuffed "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies). He's been at the helm of a couple of fatal accidents at work recently, and his co-workers inform him that if he has one more within the month, he'll be given his walking papers, but also a severance to the tune of "ka-ching!"

Smelling a better life with such a payday, Paul seeks to recruit a willing victim to complete his on-the-clock trifecta of death. He finds him in Tommy (Colm Meany), a suicidal guy who's got next to nothing left to live for, since his wife (Imelda Staunton) moved on long ago, and their daughter, Frankie (Gemma Arterton), considers him dead already.

But first, Tommy wants to make amends, or at least say his goodbyes. What he doesn't intend on is for Paul to get his smitten mitts all over Frankie. Complications, you have arisen!

"Three and Out" is, to put it bluntly, about a three "? and not out of four, either, but 10. Despite good intentions and a comedic streak smeared black, it's simply not funny, and its third-act turn toward the dramatic rings hollow. It doesn't help that Crook looks unwashed for days, making him extremely unsympathetic; he's an impossible protagonist to get behind.

Or maybe I'm just jealous he has an extended sex scene with Arterton, the comely cutie who's currently Hollywood's big-budget babe du jour ("Clash of the Titans," "Prince of Persia," "Quantum of Solace"). Not to sound like a red-blooded, heterosexual American male "? which I am "? but seeing her in the flesh is the only reason to consider inserting this one into your player. "?Rod Lott

  • or